Everyone from the building—about sixty people or so—stood around on the sidewalk outside while firefighters checked over everything.
I saw Daniels on the opposite side of the crowd, talking to a lead firefighter, no doubt explaining how the alarm had come to be pulled.
I was sure he was eager to give them a story that kept them from inspecting too closely.
I looked around. A lot of women worked at this company.
Was I the only one he did this to?
Did nobody see what he was doing?
Or was he just good at hiding it?
I never encouraged him; I didn’t dress differently from the women I worked with.
I guessed I just matched his tastes more closely than anyone here—it was the only explanation I could find.
My family always thought I was a potential victim: I wasn’t tall and I kept to myself a lot, at least at work.
I saw him look at me through the crowd, like a hyena leering at a gazelle through grass. He wasn’t done pursuing me.
But I wasn’t done defending myself, either. And he wasn’t going to corner me like that again.
Right then, I just wanted to be away from him. I took out my phone. It was time for reinforcements. I texted my best friend April.
The Grand Hotel was one of the glitziest spots in all of the Windy City.
Amy had an office reception job there, and it was a good middle ground between me and April. Walking there would give me a chance to clear my head after the day I’d had.
I dropped into a plush seat in the lobby of The Grand Hotel.
The chair, meant for clientele to sit in for no more than ten minutes on average, must have been worth five times as much as the busted swivel chair I had to suffer in.
I’d complained to Daniels about it before, but he’d just used it as an excuse to check me out.
But I refused to give that asshole another thought. I opened my bag and took out Chicagoan’s Journal, my favorite local magazine, and flipped to an article I’d been eager to get to, especially today:
I didn’t get any farther than Tip Two:
“Dress the Part!”
Well, I already do that…
I looked up from my magazine and saw that a man had sat down in the seat next to mine. I nearly gasped.
Not just because he was a gorgeous specimen of a man—and he was—but because I recognized him.
It was Julian Hawksley, the CEO of Hawksley Enterprises!
My heart pounded. A pulse of heat washed through me.
I wasn’t single, but a primal part of me acknowledged the truth my chaste, committed, sensible personality didn’t want to say out loud.
Julian Hawksley was the most beautiful man I had ever seen.
But he was Julian Hawksley.
Also known as the Julian Hawksley.
What was he doing here?
I looked around for who he was talking to because it couldn’t be me…
He waved, noticing I was in a bit of a trance. “Hello?”
I blinked, coming back to myself. “Yes?” I asked.
“Hate to bother you, you look like you’re in a zone…but I was wondering…could I borrow your magazine?”
He had a charming face that could talk almost anyone into almost anything.
But I could see a trace of tension on his face, as if he really wanted to read my magazine.
I was starstruck. If he had asked for all my cash, my car keys, anything, I would have handed it over without a thought.
I gave him the magazine…
And hoped he would ask for something else—anything else.
“Thanks!” he whispered.
He opened the magazine and held it up close to his face, as if he was super interested in it, or couldn’t read it without glasses and had to hold it an inch from his eyes.
What was he doing? It was comical seeing a grown, beautiful, hunky man doing this. ~Was he playing a joke on me? Was this a prank?~
I heard the click of heels on the polished floor and a second later, one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen strode by.
I’d seen her before in advertisements and entertainment videos: her name was Grace. She was a supermodel and was famously dating the man in the seat next to me.
Her eyes scanned the lobby, and then she turned and proceeded down a hallway.
Once the click of her heels faded away, Julian lowered the paper shield from his face and let out a sigh.
“Thanks…” He turned the magazine around to read the printed name in the corner. “’Vlashion Front Desk? Unusual name… What? Do you have a Great Aunt Vlashion you were named after?”
He grinned with a wrinkled brow.
I laughed in disbelief.
Was Julian Hawksley talking to me?
Was he flirting with me?
I opened my mouth, but I was tongue-tied. I always felt stupid whenever I was face-to-face with someone so attractive.
“No, I’m—not, that’s not, that’s where I work—I, my name is Zoey. Curtis. Zoey Curtis,” I stammered out.
My inclination was to run away, but I refused to stay silent, despite being super self-conscious.
I was a grown woman in a mature, monogamous relationship.
And this was a man I’d never met before.
And in that moment, making sure I didn’t look like a total idiot was the only worthwhile goal in the entire universe.
“Well, thanks for the assist, Zoey Curtis. I needed a breather.” He returned the magazine. “Lotta good stuff in there. Any of the tips working out for you?”
The heels clicked back in our direction; Grace was walking back. Julian huffed.
“I better go deal with that. Lovely to meet you, Zoey Curtis, of the aforementioned Vlashion Front Desk.”
He held out his hand to shake. I took it, expecting my hand to be crushed.
Instead, it was warm. I felt a current, a charge, an electricity flowing between us.
He held my hand a millisecond longer than the shake called for, and we both knew it.
He headed for the elevators and waited until Grace returned.
“There you are!” he announced loudly, pretending he’d lost her.
They got into the elevator and disappeared a moment later.
I was frozen on the spot until April and Amy walked over a minute later.
“Tell me you saw that!” I demanded.
But they didn’t need to say it—they were both giggling, dancing on their tiptoes, amazed by my moment with the billionaire playboy.
The ups and downs of the day blurred at the club that night.
We threw a few drinks back and danced for about an hour, but Amy’s night got cut short by a work call.
The place was loud, so she had to step outside to answer her phone. When she came back, something was definitely up, but she wouldn’t say what.
“I have to bail, sorry! Don’t be mad at me!”
How could we be mad at her?
Work was work. Chicago was a tough town to get a leg up in, and any decent work you could find, you had to make sure you kept. We hugged, and she left.
April and I didn’t stay out much longer. But I got my bad afternoon and bad boss out of my head, so the night was a success!
When I got back to our studio apartment, I saw lights on inside and hurried to unlock the door.
Ben must be back from Asia.
Of course he hadn’t let me know that, hadn’t prepared me for that.
It was an annoying communication issue that I could not get him to improve on, but there were worse things. At least he was trying to make something of himself.
Though he could try harder…
He was an artist early in his career, but he was finding enough success to get to travel the world and work on different projects with exciting painters and sculptors.
We hugged and cuddled…and did a couple of other things…before we caught up on each other’s lives since he’d gone away.
I told him about the latest with Mr. Daniels, expecting support, or an “I’ll kill the bastard!”, or a “You should sue!” But that wasn’t what I got.
“What were you wearing? I mean, I’ve seen your closet, babe…”
Was he serious?
I guess he could read my expression in the dark. “What? I’m just saying…”
“There is nothing inappropriate about what I wear. Daniels does what he does because he’s an asshole, full stop.”
I was too tired, and my day had been too long, to get into this with him. “Good night,” I said, and rolled over.
This was not how I had pictured his first night back.
I set the alarm on my phone and was about to turn off the light when my phone chirped with a new email. The subject line caught my attention:
“Invitation to interview for a position at Hawksley Enterprises @ our Chicago headquarters.”
I opened the email.
The Chicago office of Hawksley Enterprises has a position opening for standout, one-of-a-kind candidates.
Your information reached our hiring department. If you are interested in learning more, we would love to discuss it in person. Noon, tomorrow.
How did they get my information?
This had to stem from my encounter with Mr. Hawksley earlier today.
I had no idea what I was in for.
But there was no way I’d miss the chance to find out.
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